It was Aristotle who said: "Without image, thinking is impossible." By linking image to thought and comparing the two, Aristotle has been considered as one of the first philosophers in the history of the critical analysis of art. Because he drew comparisons between visual arts in relation to the literary arts, he was one of the first to dive into the age-old "word-image" problem.
In his comparison between painting and poetry and the representation of subjects in these art forms, he began to make the argument that future Aristotelians held, that "image and idea ought… to pass freely from one art to the other."
When reflecting on this example of the age-old "word-image" problem, visual thinking, therefore, can be thought to be an automatic reflex of one's mind when one is reading verbal text. In this sense, words and images go hand-in-hand and coexist when thinking occurs. Similarly, just as words conjure up images in the brain, visual art can lead the viewer to express his or her analysis with verbal dialogue and written words.
Art historians deal directly with this "word-image problem" as they analyze visual art to verbally describe both the content of the art itself and its place in reference a given context. David Thelden said, "the challenge of history is to recover the past and introduce it to the present."
I would go further in saying that the challenge of the art historian is to uncover the past and interpret it for the present. If this is true for the art historian, then one of the challenges for the contemporary artist is to reinterpret the historical past as it has been presented in written text and imagery to provide the viewer with a more holistic view of an event, time, place, or peoples.
As a K-4 Art Teacher in New Haven, Connecticut, I am asked to begin to develop these critical thinking skills within my students. Being able to express one's opinions, views, observations, and interpretations are important parts of the K- 4 curriculum for the Visual Arts. Of the three components of the curriculum for the Visual Arts in the New Haven Public Schools (creating art, connecting art to other disciplines, and responding to art), critical thinking is a skill that is most developed during the Responding to Art component. However, the skills involved in critical thinking affect the students' ability to create art and critical thinking is a skill that can be enhanced by connecting art to other disciplines. Over the course of my teaching as an elementary art teacher in an urban magnet school, I have found that my students' verbal and written abilities to express their observations and interpretations of artworks need development. What, then, is the best way to develop the skill of responding to art within my students? How, as their teacher, can I develop their written and verbal ability to respond to artworks while connecting art to other disciplines to strengthen their art making skills? Within this unit students will learn how to use reading and writing strategies, normally used in their language-arts classes to strengthen their ability in the planning, creating, and reflecting processes of the art curriculum.